Lately we’ve heard from many teachers and tutors who want to use the Great Leaps Digital Program with their students but can’t get it funded by either their district or principal and don’t have the means within their own budget. It’s a very frustrating situation to be in. In fact the creation of Great Leaps came from necessity when there wasn’t money available at the school to hire additional staff or implement a program to meet the struggling readers’ needs. We sympathize with this problem and want to provide some resources and ideas that you can use to raise the support and funding to enable your students to successfully become independent readers. It will take going above and beyond what’s expected of you as a teacher BUT that’s exactly what great teachers do and have done time and time again! Because you’re a great teacher, you’ve often spent your own money for basic classroom supplies. You should not have to pay for basic curricula needs! You need help!! It may take a little extra work but here’s some ideas to help you raise funds for necessary materials for instruction (like Great Leaps). When you find ideas that work, please find the way to share these within the Great Leaps Community.
1. Use Your Own Support Network
No one likes to look for a handout from friends and family BUT the reality is that this isn’t for YOU. It’s for the kids! We’ve heard teachers find success using tools like GoFundMe or Fundraise or Pledge Cents to purchase necessities for their students. At $129/year for a student subscription you can expect to get well over 2 years of reading growth for even the most challenging of students! Your friends and family will commend you for your effort and your students’ lives will be changed for the better because of their growth! Don’t be shy! Most people are well aware that teachers have paid much out of their own pockets for their students.
Tips for Success: When setting up a fundraising campaign for your classroom be sure to make the need clear! Don’t use student names BUT make them aware of the challenge, be transparent about what you plan on purchasing and draw some sympathy. Let them know the expected results and that you’ll provide updates on their progress on your Facebook page (again not using names) so that they can see the impact their donation has had on your students! Also awareness is key. Don’t just post it once on Facebook then give up when no one responds. Reach out personally to friends and family that you know have it within their means to donate. It may save some time to make a template message that explains the details and tag a personal message onto that. Potential donors to consider outside of your immediate circle may include your physician, real estate agent, attorney, dentist, and the owner of shops you frequent.
2. Reach out to Charitable Organizations in the Community
With COVID many of us feel more detached from our community than ever, but charitable giving is a wonderful way for groups to impact their community. EVERYONE supports education and sees the necessity of reading! Many want to help but do not know how. Remember, you can also enlist volunteer tutors to help you in your work with the students. Consider appealing to religious organizations, especially your own church, mosque or synagogue. If you are not an active member, these religious organizations and their members see the value in charitable donations for at risk kids and will contribute. They may need to hear facts concerning our present reading crisis. There’s also clubs like Kiwanis, Rotary, and Lions to name a few that exist in most communities who make charity a fundamental component of their organization! If you are in a university or college community, do not forget that fraternities and sororities and other organizations take part in fundraisers for worthy projects. You will be surprised at the altruism of these young adults - they have a lot of energy but often do not know a worthy place to put it.
Tips for Success: The power in these organizations is in their members. Try to connect with the right person in the organization who will get your message out to the members! Do they have a newsletter? Be in that newsletter. Do they make announcements in their meetings? Make an announcement or connect with a member that will for you. Again awareness is KEY. Make sure to articulate the significance of the problem for example the impact that literacy has on kids’ lives in the community. You need to be able to simply state the importance of getting the necessary resources to you so you can be effective. Also just like before, set a clear financial goal and say exactly what you will do with those donations. Be transparent. You also need to have a simple way for them to donate. This could be through a gofundme or fundraise campaign mentioned above. You could also consider a venmo or a paypal link they can go to and send funds directly to you. If using Paypal make sure they send it through “Friends and Family” so that Paypal doesn’t take a fee from your donations! Sadly, the funds you receive are not tax deductible unless it can be done through a school or organization with the proper status.
3. Teacher Specific Resources
Resources include the ever popular Donors Choose where you can easily set up a project for your classroom and get it funded by both total strangers OR your own network that you share it with. There’s also Class Tag that’s a neat communication tool for parents and teachers which can both increase your effectiveness as a teacher while helping generate funds to go towards your students. Next is the Supply a Teacher program for schools with 50% or more students that are a part of the free and reduced lunch program. It will provide you boxes with a year’s worth of essential supplies that just might open up funds in our budget for a program like Great Leaps. Here’s a couple grants you can apply for that are geared towards reading.
IRA Regie Routman Teacher Recognition Grant - $2,500
From Failure to Promise - $500
Underfunded teachers are sadly, a common problem, all exacerbated by the pandemic. There are a number of resources specifically for you! Is this a depressing reality in our country? Of course, but your mission as an educator is to make a difference in your students’ lives and if you’re able to independently (with funds you generate) show awesome success using Great Leaps, our sincere hope is that you’ll be able to present your successes to your principal, administrator, school board or district and get their financial support next year.
Local chapters of professional organizations such as the Council for Exceptional Children, the International Dyslexia Association, the Learning Disabilities Association, the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers and the NAACP often give grant awards to teacher members each year. Your PTO/PTA often gives teacher supply grants.
Tips for Success: Your key is effort. You may be surprised at the impact of your altruism and love of teaching has upon your world. And we know, it sometimes can feel as if you are begging when you seek necessary funding, rest assured that is lightyears from the truth! Yes, we must strive to do our best for our students, but that call does not necessitate taking necessary monies from your family. Your pay is low enough. You may even find more respect in the community than you feel in your day to day work. You may need to try a combination of different sources to get the amount funded that you need. Also, keep an eye on the timelines. If you’re interested in a grant put the application deadline in your calendar A WEEK before the actual one so that you get things submitted early.
Hopefully this was helpful and if so please share it with others who may get value out of it! If you have additional strategies or resources that can help, please let us know in the comments or send us an email!
A note from the author Ken Campbell:
I spent a career on the frontlines as a special education teacher. My classroom had a token economy - somebody had to buy the prizes for the students! Most often that somebody was me.
I got creative. The local theater had a fund-raising event for a school. One of the parents of a child from my class not only found the resource but did all the work to win this.
A parent received a major settlement when her child, one of my students, was killed in a school bus crash. She supported my room for years, then supported the teacher who took my place.
A professor of mine supported my endeavors.
Yes, I know exactly what it’s like to spend money out of my own pocket for my kids but there are many who can help.